Things were really looking bleak for the Philadelphia Phillies (35-27) just a few days ago. The club had dropped the first four games on a west coast trip and had lost starting outfielder and leadoff man Andrew McCutchen for the season.
But then the Phillies turned things around, fighting back to capture the final two games of the trip in San Diego. Now as they return home to Citizens Bank Park for the next week, the Phillies lead the National League East Division by two games. They have sat on that perch atop the division for all but seven days in this 2019 regular season.
The opposition for the weekend will be the Cincinnati Reds (28-33), who find themselves at the bottom of the NL Central Division standings. But don’t let that fool you, the Reds are an interesting team that is not out of the postseason hunt by a long shot.
After winning their season opener, the Reds proceeded to lose their next eight straight and 12 of their first 17 games. However, since that time, Cincinnati has gone 23-20. They have not lost more than two straight games since April 17, and have not won more than three in a row in that same span.
The Reds have scored 265 runs so far this season, which is just 11th of the 15 teams in the National League. They rank just 12th in OPS, and are at the bottom of the league in doubles. However, they can hit the long ball, as Cincy hitters rank 7th in the NL with 85 home runs.
Pitching and defense, that is where Cincy has buttered their 2019 bread. Reds pitchers have the NL’s second-best ERA and batting average against marks. They also rank second in the league in strikeouts.
Cincinnati excels with their gloves. The Reds have the National League’s second-highest fielding percentage, and their 25 errors committed rank only behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, who happen to be following the Reds in to Citizens Bank Park next week.
The Reds have played exactly .500 ball this season at home in Great American Ball Park, but have just a 13-17 road mark. The Phillies the season series a year ago by a narrow 4-3 margin after Cincy captured four of the six meetings between the two teams in each of the previous three seasons.
Generally, Cincinnati is a sound ball club. They won’t beat themselves, so for the Phillies to take the series they are going to need to hit the ball consistenly while not giving away runs themselves. With the weather warming up, you can expect to start seeing more balls flying over the walls at Citizens Bank Park. That could well become a factor this weekend in South Philly. Keeping the ball in the yard will be a key for each team.
TOP LINEUP THREATS
Joey Votto: The now 35-year-old first baseman is one of the best hitters of the last decade. The 2010 NL Most Valuable Player (top 7 in voting five more times), runner-up for the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Award, 2011 Gold Glover, 6x NL All-Star. Age may finally be slowing him down, as Votto is slugging just .246/.338/.362 with four homers and 11 RBIs this year. But don’t count him out this weekend. His 10 doubles and 30 runs scored are both second on the team, and he is hitting .293 for his career at Citizens Bank Park with 13 extra-base hits over 30 games.
Eugenio Suarez: The 27-year-old third baseman was a first-time NL All-Star a year ago. He is slashing .277/.353/.527 and leads the Reds with 40 RBIs, 27 extra-base hits, and 32 runs scored. His 14 homers are second on the club.
Derek Dietrich: One of MLB’s biggest breakout hitters this season, the 29-year-old signed as a free agent back in February after playing his first six big-league seasons with the Marlins. Dietrich is slashing .263/.369/.684, leads the team with 17 home runs, and is second with 37 RBIs. All that damage was done in just 157 plate appearances, as he has bounced around the lineup, used at four different positions. He has spent most of the year as the club’s starting second baseman, however.
Yasiel Puig: “The Wild Horse” is now 28-years of age. The right fielder came to Cincy in a December trade from the LA Dodgers, with whom the Cubano had spent his first six big-league seasons. Puig remains wildly inconsistent at the plate, slashing just .210/.257/.388 to this point. But his 11 homers and 33 RBIs are both third on the club and demonstrate that he can still be extremely dangerous on any given night.
Jose Iglesias: The Reds 29-year-old starting shortstop leads the team with a .294 batting average, and his 21 RBIs are fourth-best in their lineup.
Nick Senzel: One of baseball’s top rookies, Senzel was handled similarly to Scott Kingery in that he was a natural infielder who was bounced around by the Reds organization in order to find a place for his bat. They moved him from third base to second, and now Senzel is their starting center fielder.
The 24-year-old was the club’s first round pick at 2nd overall in the 2016 MLB Draft, chosen right after the Phillies had selected Mickey Moniak at first overall. The 24-year-old Senzel is holding his own in his first taste of big-league life, slashing .266/.331/.453 with 14 extra-base hits in 143 plate appearances since being promoted from Triple-A on May 3.
SCHEDULED STARTING PITCHERS
Tyler Mahle (FRI): 24-year-old RH, 2-5, 4.26 ERA, 1.255 WHIP, 63 hits over 61.1 IP across 11 starts with a 67/14 K:BB
Tanner Roark (SAT): 32-year-old RH, 4-4, 3.47 ERA, 1.396 WHIP, 62 hits over 62.1 IP across 12 starts with a 65/25 K:BB
Sonny Gray (SUN):29-year-old RH, 2-5, 3.54 ERA, 1.213 WHIP, 51 hits over 61 IP across 12 starts with a 68/23 K:BB
KEY BENCH & BULLPEN PIECES
Kyle Farmer: 28-year-old utility infielder has come off the bench to provide five homers and 16 RBIs over 82 plate appearances.
Curt Casali: 30-year-old backup catcher is slashing .292/.347/.438 in 38 games and 98 plate appearances.
Raisel Iglesias: The Reds 29-year-old Cuban closer has a 2.93 ERA and 1.301 WHIP. The righty has allowed 26 hits over 27.2 innings across 26 games while recording a dozen Saves with a 39/10 K:BB. He can be alternatingly dominating and disheartening at the end of games for Cincy.
Michael Lorenzen: 27-year-old righty setup man has allowed 36 hits over 33 innings across 27 games with a 31/10 K:BB
David Hernandez: Former Phillies 2016 reliever and a 10-year big-league veteran righty has allowed 28 hits over 27 innings across 29 appearances with a 35/10 K:BB ratio.
Amir Garrett: The top lefty out of the pen, the 27-year-old has a nice 1.69 ERA. Has allowed 20 hits over 26.2 innings with a 39/12 K:BB ratio. If you examine these numbers so far, you will see that the Reds truly have a power bullpen, as far as striking out hitters and keeping walks to a minimum.
Jared Hughes: 33-year-old, 9-year big-league veteran righty has allowed 21 hits over 25.2 innings with a 17/8 K:BB
David Bell: Phillies fans who were around to follow the team as Citizens Bank Park first opened should be very familiar with Bell. After signing as a free agent in December 2002, he was the Phillies starting third baseman from 2003 into the 2006 season. He was then dealt to the Milwaukee Brewers just prior to the 2006 MLB non-waiver trade deadline. Bell slashed .258/.331/.385 over 470 games with the Phillies, almost all of those at the hot corner, and produced 137 extra-base hits. In 2004 at Citizens Bank Park, Bell hit for ‘The Cycle’ against the Montreal Expos, the last Phillies player to accomplish that feat.
SERIES WEATHER REPORT
FRIDAY: Partly cloudy, 81 degrees at 7:05PM first pitch, dropping into the mid-70’s during the game with light winds and no chance of rain whatsoever.
SATURDAY: Cloudy, 80 degrees at 4:05PM first pitch, temps holding with a moderate breeze about 10mph throughout and no chance of rain whatsoever.
SUNDAY: Cloudy, 78 degrees at 1:05PM first pitch with a moderate breeze at around 12mph and a slight chance of showers. Conditions steady throughout the game. Precipitation does not look like a real factor at this point.
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